I Am a Firefighter with Cancer. Am I Covered Under Workers' Compensation?
The Minnesota Workers' Compensation Act provides financial relief to employees who are injured during the course and scope of their employment. But not all work injuries are what we define in workers' compensation law as “specific injuries”. These are obvious injuries that occur on the job, such as a piano dropping on your foot. A worker who suffers from an occupational disease or a chronic illness arising out of his or her employment is also protected under the Minnesota Worker's Compensation Act.
At Meuser Law Office, P.A., we have represented workers who have developed occupational diseases as a result of their work-related exposures. These clients have included firefighters who developed cancer because of the hazards that they faced. Significant evidence indicates that firefighters have 2 times the incidence for brain cancer, 2 times the incidence for liver cancer, 2.8 times the incidence for colon and rectal cancer, 2.5 to 3 times the incidence for bladder cancer, a higher incidence for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and a higher incidence for urinary cancer. In fact, many fire departments are recognizing these dangers and are taking steps to prevent more firefighters from developing cancer. For example, stricter procedures for washing out gear, better ventilation in the garage where the trucks are parked, and a push for awareness in the community.
Firefighters are regularly exposed to a variety of dangerous carcinogens and chemicals. The Minnesota legislature recognizes these heightened dangers are specific to firefighters and put in place additional laws for firefighters under Minnesota Statute 176.011 Subd. 15 (c), which states in relevant part:
"A firefighter on active duty with an organized fire department who is unable to perform duties in the department by reason of a disabling cancer of a type caused by exposure to heat, radiation, or a known or suspected carcinogen, as defined by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and the carcinogen is reasonably linked to the disabling cancer, is presumed to have an occupational disease."
This statute means that if a firefighter develops a type of cancer caused by a carcinogen to which firefighters are regularly exposed then the disease is presumed to have arisen out of the employment. This statute shifts the burden of proof to the employer to prove the cancer is not causally related. Usually in workers’ compensation, the injured worker has the “burden of proof” to demonstrate under the standard, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the injury is causally linked to the work activities.
Now, other issues can arise in this type of claim. Many times, firefighters don’t even know that they even have a workers’ compensation claim and years can pass. With this type of a workers’ compensation claim you must put your employer on notice that you have suffered an occupational disease within a certain time period.
At Meuser Law Office, P.A. we, unfortunately, have handled many cases of firefighters with cancer. If this is affecting you or someone in your family, contact attorneys who have experience representing clients with this type of workers’ compensation claim. In addition, you may also be eligible for a PERA duty disability claim as well as a health care continuation claim. Our attorneys would make sure you receive the full benefit you are due.
Contact Meuser Law Office, P.A. at 877-746-5680 for a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your claim.